Weekend Vinopolpick– February 8

February 8, 2014
Chablis is the northernmost sub-region in Burgundy located about 60 miles northwest of the Cote de Nuits.  The Romans first established vineyards in Chablis, but the Cistercian Monks of the Abbey of Pontigny integrated viticulture into the culture of the rural communities and most likely introduced the Chardonnay grape.  It is the coolest of major Burgundy regions, where sun exposure is critical to ripeness.  It is closer in proximity to the region of Champagne actually, and its high quality wines share a mineral character due in part to the two regions similar soil type and cold climate.  Wines from the AOC are 100% Chardonnay and in general see little to no new oak; however in more recent times, some of the highest quality wines can see more significant amounts, adding further complexity.  The terroir, cool climate and production methods result in wines with a racy acidity and distinctly flinty minerality.

The climate is semi-continental with warm to hot summers and harsh, long winters.  It lacks the maritime influence that would curb weather extremes.  Grape growers are at the mercy of the weather.  A too-cold growing season could lead to wines with unbalanced acidity, while hot vintages result in flabby wines with low acidity.  Frost, a possibility as late as mid-May, can damage new vine shoots or destroy a crop if it occurs after bud break.  Grape growers have several methods at their disposal for preventing damage.  Smudge pots, while expensive to keep lit, are efficient heaters that keep vineyard air above freezing.  Another option is to spray water over the vines once the temperature hits the freezing point.  It must be maintained while the temperature is below freezing or it can result in more damage.  The fierce winds can often cause the water spray to hit neighboring vineyards.

Chablis is famous for its Kimmeridgian limestone soil.  This soil type is composed of chalky marl, limestone and clay with fossilized oyster shells dating to the Late Jurassic Period, over 150 million years ago.  The Kimmeridgian soil is part of the Paris basin that extends through Champagne, the Loire regions of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume and as north as the White Cliffs of Dover, giving the cliffs their color.  The shells involved are Exogyra virgule, a tiny comma-shaped oyster.  The soil influences the vines not only through the minerals available to the roots but also by enabling sunlight to reflect off the ground and back to the leaves.  Wines produced from Kimmeridgian soil tend to have a flinty or steely characteristic.  The second soil type is Portlandien, formed much later in the same period, which is less rich in clay and fossils; and typically results in fruitier wines with less minerality.

There are four classification levels in Chablis.  The Petit Chablis classification was set in 1944.  These wines are sourced mostly from vineyards on the plateau above the Premier Cru and Grand Cru sites and have Portlandien soil.  The vineyards see more wind and less sun.  The wines are best when drunk young and are not as complex or refined as the higher classifications.  The Chablis AOC was established in 1938 and is composed of vineyards along the slopes surrounding the village of Chablis.  These vineyards have Kimmeridgian soil and have a higher limestone content than Petit Chablis, resulting in a more distinct minerality in the wines.  The Chablis Premier Cru designation is a quality subdivision of the Chablis AOC.  It is composed of 40 vineyard sites.  It is common for lesser-known sites to use a larger umbrella name associated with that Premier Cru.

There are seven named climats with the Chablis Grand Cru designation.  They are as follows, listed from north to south: Preuses, Bougros, Vaudesir, Grenouilles, Valmur, Les Clos and Blanchot.  These sites are along a single slope of prime exposure facing southwest toward the river Serein that flows through the town of Chablis.  Wines from these sites have the longest ageing potential of 10-15 years and are more likely to have some oak influence.

Oak influence is one of the most controversial subjects around Chablis wine.  Purists argue for 100% stainless steel ageing to best express the acidity and flinty minerality of the wines.  Producers that do use oak appreciate it as a tradition that imparts complexity from the oxygenation.  Higher amounts of new oak imbue a degree of oak flavors such as vanilla.  The point during the wine making process that the wine is in oak has different influences, such as barrel fermentation versus maturation.  It is generally agreed that only Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines have the complexity and structure to integrate an oak influence.  It is unlikely for an AOC Chablis wine to see any oak.

We are pleased to present a range of producers, vintages and classifications of Chablis wines below.

Chablis Wines Here Now

Olivier Leflaive Chablis Fourchaume 2005 ($39.95) $26.00 special, 15 bottles remaining
Burghound 88 points
 “A classic Chablis nose features notes of sea breeze, green fruit and oyster shell that can also be found on the riper and more complex middle weight flavors that are delicious, intense and nicely detailed, all wrapped in a finish brimming with plenty of Chablis character…”

Christian Moreau Chablis Clos Hospices 2009 ($89.95) $69.00 special, 19 bottles remaining
Stephen Tanzer 93 points, Burghound 92-94 points
 “This is quite similar to the regular cuvée save for the fact that the fruit component is slightly riper. Otherwise, there are the same rich, full-bodied and serious flavors that possess excellent mid-palate density and the same powerful, driving and persistent finish. This is a big yet not inelegant wine that should age well in the context of the vintage.”

Vincent Dauvissat Chablis La Forest 2009 ($99.95) $79.00 special, 4 bottles remaining
Stephen Tanzer 93 points
 “Pale yellow. Compelling aromas of warm stone, paraffin, anise, vanilla and toast are subtle rather than exuberant. Opulent on entry, then penetrating and tight in the middle, with remarkably complex flavors of lemon, licorice, chlorophyll, tarragon and dill. A large-scaled but wonderfully fine-grained premier cru with superb length. Leaves behind a scent of licorice in the retronasal passage. This will offer early accessibility, but I’d hold rather hold my bottles for seven or eight years.”

Christian Moreau Les Clos Chablis 2009 ($69.95) $59.00 special, 4 bottles remaining
Stephen Tanzer 91-94 points 
“Moderate wood influence that should integrate quickly still allows the white flower, spiced pear and citrus-infused aromas to shine. The rich, full and serious flavors possess excellent concentration as well as ample amounts of the hallmark minerality on the detailed, energetic and explosive finish.”

Faiveley Chablis Les Clos 2009 ($99.95) $79.00 special, 11 bottles remaining
Stephen Tanzer 95 points
 “Straw-yellow. Soil-driven aromas of flinty, petrolly minerality, oyster shell and menthol. Broad, silky and suave yet with terrific energy and sappiness to the flavors of lemon, lime and wet stone. Less detailed today than the Preuses, but the slowly building, palate-saturating finish has to be one of the longest of the vintage. This wine, too, shows its great site more than it does the very warm 2009 vintage. For Chablis connoisseurs.”

Faiveley Chablis Les Preuses 2009 ($89.95) $79.00 special, 12 bottles remaining
Stephen Tanzer 95 points 
“Knockout nose combines lavender, white pepper, violet, menthol and crushed stone, along with a whiff of baked bread. Superripe and seamless yet with terrific cut to its sweet stone fruit and stony mineral flavors. The explosive saline, stony finish is almost painful today. This will become even more minerally with a few years of bottle aging. A beauty, and even more impressive than a sample I tasted last year. A great example of Preuses that transcends the vintage, this wine spent a bit of time in barrique, then was kept in vat until it was bottled in January of this year.”

Servin Chablis Massale Vieilles Vignes 2010 ($27.95) $21.90 special, 23 bottles remaining
Wine Advocate 92-93 points
 “The Servin 2010 Chablis Vieilles Vignes Selection Massale that I tasted this June in tank–representing a small portion held to test the effects of really long elevage–is so remarkable that I feel obliged to make an exception to my rule of not reviewing wines under names that it may be difficult to disambiguate….The saline-sweet, saliva-inducing savor of fresh scallop that I associate with Pargues (and also, among others, with Preuses) is present here in irresistible spades, accompanied by fresh apple and grapefruit, kelp and seaweed, along with unmistakably vivid oyster liqueur. The word ‘mouthwatering’ scarcely does this justice and it combines lush texture with refreshing and energetic brightness, its myriad nuances layered and undulating in a long, luscious finish. Look for it to be profoundly satisfying through at least 2016”

Christian Moreau Chablis Clos Hospices 2010 ($99.95) $89.00 special, 7 bottles remaining
Wine Advocate 95 points 
“The 2010 Chablis Les Clos Clos des Hospices adds some of the textural richness found in the Valmur with the delicacy and salinity of Les Clos. Smoke, graphite, crushed rocks and licorice are some of the many notes that add complexity on the textured, caressing finish. This is another standout from Moreau. The style is a bit huge and the rich fruit will surprise those looking for subtlety, but it all works. Anticipated maturity: 2012.”

Faiveley Chablis Fourchaume 2010 ($39.95) $33.00 special, 7 bottles remaining
Stephen Tanzer 91 points
 “(from Vaulorent): Good bright pale-medium yellow. Musky aromas of wet stone and honey, with a cyanic hint of apricot pit. Fat, broad and seamless, with a ripe peach flavor lifted by strong minerality. Fine-grained and quite long, more about minerals than primary fruit.”

Fevre Chablis Les Lys 2010 ($59.95) $44.00 special, 8 bottles remaining
Burghound 91-93 points 
“An airy, pure and ultra-elegant nose offers up notes of dried white flowers, citrus rind and tidal pool where the latter also suffuses the quite finely detailed middle weight flavors that possess surprisingly richness on the precise and lingering finish. I very much admire the exquisite balance and as Les Lys always is, this is a wine of finesse and subtlety.”

Fevre Chablis Mont De Milieu 2010 ($59.95) $44.00 special, 17 bottles remaining
Burghound 91-93 points 
“The differences in exposition between Mont de Milieu and Les Lys are really quite strikingly underscored as the fruit aromas here are so much riper and more obviously kissed by the sun, indeed to the point where there is an overt exoticism to the yellow orchard fruit aromas. Yet there is still excellent freshness and enough Chablis character to faithfully recall this wine’s origins. There is impressive volume and power to the medium weight plus flavors that possess a plenitude of dry extract that coats the mouth on the intense, complex and lasting finish. This succulent effort should develop well over the next 5 to 7 years.”

Fevre Chablis Vaulorent 1ER Cru 2010 ($74.95) $59.00 special, 24 bottles remaining
Antonio Galloni 94 points 
“The 2010 Chablis Vaulorent is striking. It shows plenty of richness but very little in the way of excess weight. There is plenty of depth waiting to emerge from this expressive, mineral-drenched Chablis. Mint, flowers and white stone fruits wrap around the pure, beautifully delineated finish. Anticipated maturity: 2013+.”

Vincent Dauvissat Chablis La Forest 2010 ($109.95) $89.00 special, 1 bottle remaining
Stephen Tanzer 94+ points
 “Extremely closed on the nose, hinting at lemon, vanilla, metallic minerality and resin. Then chewy and deep in the mouth, with electric citricity and almost painful saline minerality keeping this extremely rich wine almost shockingly austere today. This has the flavor and texture of liquid stone and surpasses the outstanding 2011 in sheer density of material. Last year Dauvissat told me that part of this fruit was harvested after the rain, but this is a great and ageworthy premier cru nonetheless.”

William Fevre Chablis Fourchaume 2010 ($64.95) $49.00 special, 1 bottle remaining
Burghound 92-94 points “*Sweet Spot Outstanding* A slightly more complex if perhaps slightly elegant nose of lemon rind, shell fish, seaweed and subtle dried floral notes is followed by pure, intense and citrusy flavors that possess cuts-like-a-knife precision before culminating in a driving mineral-inflected and highly persistent finish. This is also a seriously impressive effort and I especially like the transparency and focus here.”Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2010 ($229.95) $189.00 special, 1 bottle remaining
Stephen Tanzer & Burghound 96(+?) points 
“Bright pale yellow. Reticent, mineral-driven aromas of liquid rock, ginger, medicinal herbs and white flowers. Almost painfully intense today, with captivating floral lift to the crushed stone and saline mineral flavors. Utterly backward on the middle palate but the rising, palate-staining, remarkably long finish leaves the mouth vibrating with flavors of lavender, violet, anise and hot rocks. This brilliantly precise grand cru may well go on in bottle for 25 years.”

Faiveley Chablis Les Preuses 2010 ($79.95) $49.00 special, 17 bottles remaining
Stephen Tanzer 93 points
 “(these vines are now about 15 years old): Bright green-tinged yellow. Sexy, precise aromas of orange marmalade and flowers. Broad and minerally on the palate, with orange and peach fruit flavors complicated by a creamy quality and a menthol element. Finishes fine-grained, high-toned and very long, at once sweet and dry. I picked up a note of botrytis here.”

Fevre Chablis Valmur 2010 ($109.95) $89.00 special, 20 bottles remaining
Wine Advocate 95 points 
“The 2010 Chablis Valmur captures the essence of the vintage. It represents everything Chablis is and can be. Gunflint, slate, oyster shells, white flowers and citrus are just some of the many notes that emerge from this finely sculpted, chiseled wine. In 2010, the Valmur possesses stunning nuance and tons of delineation. It finishes with notable persistence and an element of austerity that is not totally typical of Valmur, but that is, nevertheless, highly appealing. Anticipated maturity: 2013+.”

William Fevre Chablis Bougros 2010 ($89.95) $79.00 special, 18 bottles remaining
Burghound 92-95 points
 “A restrained nose of citrus, floral, mineral reduction and algae slides into impressively rich, powerful, serious and concentrated flavors that are almost painfully intense on the explosive and strikingly long finish. This is a classic Bougros with its robust and muscular big-bodied flavors.”

William Fevre Chablis Cote Bouguerots 2010 ($99.95) $89.00 special, 13 bottles remaining
Wine Advocate 96 points
 “The 2010 Chablis Bougros Cote Bouguerots is impeccable. It is one of the more open and radiant of the 2010s here, with great balance between the richness of the fruit, floral aromatics and minerality. The Cote Bouguerots is utterly vivid and compelling from the very first taste. Layers of fruit build to the huge, caressing finish. It is one of the stand outs, not just at Fevre but among all the 2010s I tasted. Anticipated maturity: 2014+.”

William Fevre Chablis Vaudesir 2010 ($89.95) $79.00 special, 16 bottles remaining
Wine Advocate 94 points 
“The 2010 Chablis Vaudesir is pure class and elegance. Layers of subtle, perfumed fruit caress the palate in this highly expressive Chablis. Everything is in the right place. The 2010 is all about subtlety. This is one of the more finessed Fevre 2010s. I love the balance of aromatics, fruit and acidity. Anticipated maturity: 2013+.”

Christian Moreau Blanchots Chablis 2011 ($69.95) $51.90 special, 4 bottles remaining
Burghound 91-93 points 
“Here the wood is relatively generous though not completely dominant as it still allows the floral, stone, pear and hints of mineral reduction to be appreciated. There is fine richness to the bold and solidly well-concentrated flavors that possess relatively good power before terminating in a long, dry and highly persistent finish.”

Christian Moreau Chablis Clos Hospices 2011 ($99.95) $75.00 special, 34 bottles remaining
Wine Advocate 94-96 points
 “Expressive yellow stone fruits, spices, graphite and subtle French oak flow from the 2011 Chablis Les Clos Clos des Hospices. Hints of slate, smoke and oyster shells come to life on the beautifully delineated finish. There is great energy in the glass, but this is an infant. Here, too, I have a slight preference for the 2011 over the 2010. Anticipated maturity: 2013+.”

Dauvissat-Camus Chablis La Forest 2011 ($69.95) $59.00 special, 5 bottles remaining
Burghound 92 points
 ” A beautifully layered nose features notes of ripe citrus, sea breeze, dried flowers, quinine and mineral reduction. The punchy medium-bodied flavors are built on a base of minerality that adds lift to the tension-filled finish that coats the mouth with acid buffering dry extract. This is not especially refined but it really fans out on the wonderfully long finale and should reward 7 to 10 years of bottle age.”

Domaine Tribut Chablis Beauroy 2011 ($44.95) $36.00 special, 18 bottles remaining
Stephen Tanzer 89-91 points
 “Reticent nose hints at grapefruit, crushed stone and menthol. Juicy, spicy and rather round, with citrus and stone flavors opening in the glass. Ultimately sweeter and softer than the Cote de Lechet, and nicely concentrated for the year. This wine has been in older barrels for the past three months; it will be racked and assembled in September.”

Raveneau Chablis Vaillons 1ER Cru 2011 ($179.95) $149.00 special, 2 bottles remaining
Burghound 91 points 
“This is also quite floral though here the supporting aromas are comprised of white pepper, spice and a whiff of lemon rind. The round, pure and admirably vibrant medium-bodied flavors possess a lovely minerality before terminating in a mouth coating finish that really spreads out on the finish. Good stuff.”

Vincent Dauvissat Chablis La Forest 2011 ($74.95) $61.90 special, 3 bottles remaining
Stephen Tanzer 93 (+?) points 
“Bright pale yellow. Penetrating mineral aromas of crushed stone and oyster shell, with a hint of ripe grapefruit in the background. Wonderfully juicy and vibrant if youthfully taut, offering uncanny intensity and tactility for the vintage. Finishes saline and extremely long, with notes of lime, oatmeal and powdered stone. This palate-staining wine left my salivary glands quivering. Dauvissat does a vendange entier, practically no debourbage and almost no stirring of the lees.”

Christian Moreau Les Clos Chablis 2011 ($79.95) $59.00 special, 29 bottles remaining
Wine Advocate 93-95 points
 “The 2011 Chablis Les Clos comes across as rather big in this vintage. A broad-shouldered frame houses rich fruit in this powerful, intense wine. The 2011 is intensely mineral-driven and focused, more so than the 2010, which is surprising. It is likely to require a measure of patience, but it is quite pretty. The 2011 has a pure energy and tension that is missing in the 2010, at least at this stage. Anticipated maturity: 2013+.”

Christian Moreau Valmur Chablis 2011 ($69.95) $55.00 special, 25 bottles remaining
Wine Advocate 93-95 points
 “A highlight in this flight of new releases, the 2011 Chablis Valmur is striking from the very first taste. It possesses stunning depth and purity. Licorice, petrol, crushed rocks and mint add complexity to the characteristic Valmur fruit. There is more than enough acidity to buttress the expansive richness, especially on the finish. This is a wine of significant promise. Anticipated maturity: 2013.”

Domaine D’Elise Chablis 2012 ($21.95) $18.00 special, 28 bottles remaining
This wine has been pleasing people here each vintage beginning with 2005. This just arrived 2012 is denser than most years; has a markedly Chablisienne character; the best under $20 Chablis anywhere.